Friday, July 29, 2005

Plant Your Flag

“I feel like I'm in a glass bottom boat in a sewer. Surrounded by poop, but clearly above it all.”
- Puke n' Snot


Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like this? I've been having one of those days for a few days now.

I try to be a patient person, but there are days where I get pushed to my limits with some folks. There is nothing more frustrating then to be in a discussion with people that truly seem to be clueless about whatever the topic is.

When I was in the Air Force there was a person several steps up my chain-of-command that obviously passed school by slipping through the cracks.

As you may or may not be aware, the Air Force is powered by regulations. Any intelligent person can read a regulation and understand the intent of that guidance. When you become a supervisor, it is very important to be able to have good comprehension so that you can make sound decisions based on your ability to read and process the information in the regulation.

The situation escapes me now of exactly what the problem was in the interpretation of this particular regulation on that day, but all I can remember is that the guy did not understand what he was reading. I'm not talking about a disagreement of a paragraph, but a truly clueless interpretation of what he was reading.

I enjoy discussions on all manner of topics. As a result, some of my recreational time is spent reading various blogs and websites. Luckily, there are many good ones out there that I have found where the author seems to have a clue on how to interpret the news, or whatever they are writing about. These are enjoyable to read and participate in.

I only wish our government could do this more on a regular basis. :)

Then there are sites and communities that I have to participate in that sometimes I really wish there were another way to get the needed information.

Unfortunately, the same medium that invites intelligent people also attracts people with a low I.Q. or severe personality disorders.

Most of the time I just bite my lip, do what needs to be done, then move along. Then, there are days where it would be wrong of me just to let something pass by.

At times in the Ar Force I have stood my ground for something I knew to be right, even as far as causing my commander to go red in the face and order me to do something that was against one of our regulations.

I don't dig in and face obstacles lightly. In every case I have stood my ground I did so because I knew it was the right thing to do. Many times it has been when multiple “yes-men” knew it was the right thing to do, but none of them had the fortitude to take the lead.

The result of what I like to think of as my strength, is that my superiors have praised me for my ability to get the job done and done correctly. They know that if they place their faith in me to take a job to the end it will be done and done well.

Why does this matter? Because the world is jam-packed with low-end people. Many of whom are bottom feeders trying to gather the most out of life while providing the least amount of effort.

Normally we can ignore these poor souls and go about our lives striving to make something of ourselves and for our own successes. Not all of the time, however, and then we must come face-to-face with these dregs and attempt to deal with them on some level of understanding that they can comprehend.

One of the sayings I use, which is normally whipped out in a fun manner, is “Don't cloud the issue with facts.” The sad thing is that some of these people think that this is their battle cry. They will argue until they're blue in the face over some issue that is clearly not based on any facts whatsoever.

Since the purpose of this article is not to make people angry, I'll save examples of these folks for another day.

Let me leave you with this advice. If you do nothing else in a discussion, try to understand what you are talking about, and bring up tangible points based on facts or even your perceptions. If they are you opinions and ideas, then own up to them and state them as such. Don't fall into the trap of spewing something that is untrue, unproven, or completely fabricated by you.

Plant your flag, rally around it, and stake your claim.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Rock and Roll

Most nights I usually end up downstairs in the basement on my computer working on one of my several websites, reading e-mail, or programming some code I think I really need.

Tonight was no different, and on this night I was researching news articles about search and rescue diving.

As I sat reading an article, I felt a little dizzy, almost light-headed. It was the same feeling you get when sitting on a boat in a calm body of water such as a lake. Just a slow rocking sensation, almost imperceptible, except for the slight disorientation that I was experiencing.

Just as I was thinking I might be coming down with something, or had some inner-ear issue that was throwing off my equilibrium, I noticed the phone cord gently swaying on the end of the unit that was hanging on the wall.

Whew. It wasn’t me, but apparently one of the gentlest earthquakes I had ever been through.

Being born and raised in Southern California, I have been through my share of quakes, and this one was so insignificant, that I almost dismissed it and wrote it off to a health issue.

Just to verify that I truly was not getting sick, or hallucinating, I went upstairs to where the kids were watching a movie and asked them if they had felt the earthquake. They said they hadn’t, but they were engrossed in watching “Space Camp” and it was at a dramatic point. They probably thought the movie was making them feel weightless too.

Not getting the validation from my daughters, I went further upstairs to our bedroom where my wife had just gone to bed a little while before, and asked her the same question.

This time I was comforted to hear that she had felt something and looked up because she thought maybe someone had come into the room, which was making the bed shake a little. I kissed her goodnight, and then headed back downstairs to finish watching the last few minutes of my daughters’ movie.

When the movie was over we switched from DVD to Dish Network and found the ten o’clock news. Sure enough, the first report of that night was the notification that Western Montana had been hit with a fairly decent sized quake. 5.something I think they said.

The newscast also mentioned that we could go online to www.pnsn.org and make a report about how the quake was felt where we lived. Apparently this will give the scientists more data to help them in their study of earthquakes. Being the geek that I am, I went to the site and filled in their questionnaire.

Sure all of this is boring to you, so if you’re still with me, let me share an amusing tale of an earthquake I was in when I was younger in Southern California.

It has been so long now that the details leading up to the event are somewhat fuzzy. Heck, these days, the details of what I did yesterday are fuzzy!

I believe I had just got out of bed and was getting ready for school. Part of the morning ritual, as it is with so many of you I’m sure, was going to the bathroom. Now on this morning I would not be just going number one, Mother Nature was calling for the old number two.

Sitting there on the thinking chair, Southern California began to shake, and shake hard.

Growing up in earthquake country I knew I was supposed to get under a doorway, but some things you just can’t rush, and this was one of those times a decision had to be made. If I wanted to complete my business, I would just have to ride this one out on the porcelain portal for bodily fluid management.

Gripping the sides, so as not to prematurely dismount until I was completely ready to do so, I hung on while the house started rocking and rolling. At first it didn’t seem like a terrible idea, at least not until I first started to feel the water.

There I was, hanging on tight like I was on a great white-knuckle ride in an amusement park, with toilet water splashing all over my backside. This is one of those embarrassing moments that you normally don’t share with others, so of course I have elected to invite you all to join in the laughs.

Eventually the quake slowed down, and we went into the typical succession of smaller after shocks. By that time I had removed myself from my precarious perch, and was more prepared to face the little following rumbles.

Those of you who have read my words often, know that one of the reasons this site exists is to leave behind some stories for my daughters, and perhaps other family members in the future. Not because I think I’m some sort of smart thinker, or wise man imparting my knowledge to future generations, but because I think it’s important that my children have an incite into who their father was when the time comes for me to leave this body.

That being said, I'll leave you all with this little impromptu poem.

If you feel Mother Nature calling
When the Earth starts to rock and roll
And you feel there’s no time for stalling
You’d better hold tight to the bowl.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Deadly Dusting

As a parent, there is nothing more sacred then our children. We try to make sure they are taught well, and lead them by our examples, but sometimes no matter how hard you try, they find a way to scare the hell out of you.

This story that was e-mailed to me is something that every parent MUST read. Unlike many scary urban legend stories, this one is 100% true, and could be affecting your children right now!

I encourage every person who has a website, blog, or any means to get this word out to do so as much as you can. Don't wait until it is too late. It's not enough for us as a parent to know this, but it should be the mission for all of us to spread the word as quickly as we do things we don't like about politics.

That being said, here is the letter from East Cleveland police officer Jeff Williams recounting the tragic tale of how his son died.

First IM going to tell you a little about me and my family. My name is Jeff. I am a Police Officer for a city which is known nationwide for its crime rate. We have a lot of gangs and drugs. At one point we were # 2 in the nation in homicides per capita. I also have a police K-9 named Thor. He was certified in drugs and general duty. He retired at 3 years old because he was shot in the line of duty. He lives with us now and I still train with him because he likes it. I always liked the fact that there was no way to bring drugs into my house. Thor wouldn't allow it. He would tell on you. The reason I say this is so you understand that I know about drugs. I have taught in schools about drugs. My wife asks all our kids at least once a week if they used any drugs. Makes them promise they wont.

I like building computers occasionally and started building a new one in February 2005. I also was working on some of my older computers. They were full of dust so on one of my trips to the computer store I bought a 3 pack of DUST OFF. Dust Off is a can of compressed air to blow dust off a computer. A few weeks later when I went to use them they were all used. I talked to my kids and my 2 sons both said they had used them on their computer and messing around with them. I yelled at them for wasting the 10 dollars I paid for them. On February 28 I went back to the computer store. They didn't have the 3 pack which I had bought on sale so I bought a single jumbo can of Dust Off. I went home and set it down beside my computer.

On March 1st I left for work at 10 PM. At 11 PM my wife went down and kissed Kyle goodnight. At 530 am the next morning Kathy went downstairs to wake Kyle up for school, before she left for work. He was sitting up in bed with his legs crossed and his head leaning over. She called to him a few times to get up. He didn't move. He would sometimes tease her like this and pretend he fell back asleep. He was never easy to get up. She went in and shook his arm. He fell over. He was pale white and had the straw from the Dust Off can coming out of his mouth. He had the new can of Dust Off in his hands. Kyle was dead.

I am a police officer and I had never heard of this. My wife is a nurse and she had never heard of this. We later found out from the coroner, after the autopsy, that only the propellant from the can of Dust off was in his system. No other drugs. Kyle had died between midnight and 1 Am.

I found out that using Dust Off is being done mostly by kids ages 9 through 15. They even have a name for it. It's called dusting. A take off from the Dust Off name. It gives them a slight high for about 10 seconds. It makes them dizzy. A boy who lives down the street from us showed Kyle how to do this about a month before. Kyle showed his best friend. Told him it was cool and it couldn't hurt you. Its just compressed air. It cant hurt you. His best friend said no.

Kyle's death

Kyle was wrong. It's not just compressed air. It also contains a propellant. I think its R2. Its a refrigerant like what is used in your refrigerator. It is a heavy gas. Heavier than air. When you inhale it, it fills your lungs and keeps the good air, with oxygen, out. That's why you feel dizzy, buzzed. It decreases the oxygen to your brain, to your heart. Kyle was right. It cant hurt you. IT KILLS YOU. The horrible part about this is there is no warning. There is no level that kills you. It's not cumulative or an overdose; it can just go randomly, terribly wrong. Roll the dice and if your number comes up you die. ITS NOT AN OVERDOSE. Its Russian roulette. You don't die later. Or not feel good and say I've had too much. You usually die as your breathing it in. If not you die within 2 seconds of finishing "the hit." That's why the straw was still in Kyle's mouth when he died. Why his eye's were still open.

The experts want to call this huffing. The kids don't believe its huffing. As adults we tend to lump many things together. But it doesn't fit here. And that's why its more accepted. There is no chemical reaction. no strong odor. It doesn't follow the huffing signals. Kyle complained a few days before he died of his tongue hurting. It probably did. The propellant causes frostbite. If I had only known.

Its easy to say hay, its my life and I'll do what I want. But it isn't. Others are always effected. This has forever changed our family's life. I have a hole in my heart and soul that can never be fixed. The pain is so immense I cant describe it. There's nowhere to run from it. I cry all the time and I don't ever cry. I do what I'm supposed to do but I don't really care. My kids are messed up. One wont talk about it. The other will only sleep in our room at night. And my wife, I cant even describe how bad she is taking this. I thought we were safe because of Thor. I thought we were safe because we knew about drugs and talked to our kids about them.

After Kyle died another story came out. A Probation Officer went to the school system next to ours to speak with a student. While there he found a student using Dust Off in the bathroom. This student told him about another student who also had some in his locker. This is a rather affluent school system. They will tell you they don't have a drug problem there. They don't even have a dare or plus program there. So rather than tell everyone about this "new" way of getting high they found, they hid it. The probation officer told the media after Kyle's death and they, the school, then admitted to it. I know that if they would have told the media and I had heard, it wouldn't have been in my house.

We need to get this out of our homes and school computer labs.

Using Dust Off isn't new and some "professionals" do know about. It just isn't talked about much, except by the kids. They know about it.

April 2nd was 1 month since Kyle died. April 5th would have been his 15th birthday. And every weekday I catch myself sitting on the living room couch at 2:30 in the afternoon and waiting to see him get off the bus. I know Kyle is in heaven but I cant help but wonder If I died and went to Hell.

Jeff


As many of you know I always try to verify things like this with the Snopes website, and here is the verification from that site.

Please spread the word!

Monday, July 11, 2005

A River Runs Over Me

We saw our teammate, wearing an orange drysuit and yellow helmet, heading for the hole in the rapids, and there was nothing we could do about it. When he went over the edge we saw him disappear, then his orange legs came up, then he was gone again, only to reappear in the same spot this time head up. His next cartwheel flipped the “Boogie Board” he was riding up into the air, then it went down and we saw his feet again.

Orange, yellow, orange, yellow. Our teammate was caught in the hole on the backside of a rock in the rapids called, Devil's Toenail.

As he continued the washing machine effect the rest of the team sprang into action. The downstream boat started heading into the rapids and the rest of the team on the rocks scrambled to get to our spinning partner.

Then, as suddenly as it started, our teammate popped out of the hole and continued through the rapids and finally downstream into the calmer water.

Before the six of us launched on our boards to head through the rapids we discussed the river and what we should avoid. Although we were heading to a smoother section of the rapids, if we did not kick hard enough we knew we could get sucked into that hole on the way by.

I was bringing up the rear, and luckily got to watch each teammate take different sections of the rapids, including the guy that accidentally hit the now infamous hole. Not wanting to tempt fate any more then I already was, I veered past the hole just in time before the first rapids hit me.

What can I say about shooting a raging section of the river on a “Boogie Board”? It sounded simple enough in theory, but the simple part went out the window when the first rocks hit me hard from underneath.

If you ever have the urge to try this at home, I suggest giving it a pass and doing something less challenging.

In case you're not convinced, let me explain the sensation of going down this rapid while riding nothing but a slab of Styrofoam.

Your chest is pretty much protected with the board, and let me tell you I was clinging on to that piece of foam for all I was worth. My thought was that no matter what happened I knew that foam board was going to come out of the rapids, and I was damn sure going to still be hanging on to it when it did.

As I entered the rapids I began feeling a bunch of rocks bouncing down my thighs and smashing against my knees and shins. Probably similar to the feeling of laying on your back while being hit in the lower extremities with rubber mallets.

When the first dip came the ride had picked up speed. At this point you quickly realize that there is no way in heck you have any influence over this river. You're going where it wants you to go and there's not a dang thing you can do. Anyone who is foolish enough to think that they are going to control a decent through some hairy rapids using a foam board is drastically diluted.

Once that first drop hit it was pretty much just take a breath and hold on tight. I bounced off so many rocks that I lost count. It was like being a ball in a giant water pinball machine, except there were no bright lights or weird noises.

I can tell you that my legs, back and side took a good beating because I am now sore in all of those spots, with a wicked river induced Charlie-horse on my upper right thigh.

At one point I was completely under water, then a few seconds later (which really seemed like minutes) I was popped out and heading for a huge rock wall. I tried to get the board in front of me, which at this point was more instinctive self-defense rather then anything resembling calm controlled actions.

BAM! I hit that rock board first, snagged a quick breath and then bounced back into the boiling shoot this time upside down since the board was last used as a shield to my left side. I believe I executed an interesting underwater barrel roll, since I was tumbling in some sort of direction (hard to tell with your eyes closed underneath a whitewater rapid) and just hung on to the board. With my vest, wetsuit, and this little inadequate Styrofoam slab, I was hoping that the surface would once again appear and I could get another breath.

Seconds ticked by as you begin to think of things like, “What if I'm caught in some circulating hole and I don't even know it at this point”?

Just when all seemed hopeless, I felt the little board carry me back to the surface and out of the last of the rapids.

I gave the signal for OK to the downriver boat, then felt a pain in the lower part of my back. Rolling over, I leaned back and floated downriver on my back, not wanting to move for fear I really messed something up.

The boat drug me to shore like a piece of debris that had floated down the river due to a flood, and once I could get my feet under me I began testing out my back.

At this point my back began to feel better, but that's when the Charlie-horse pain kicked in.

Tonight, as I sit here and type this with some Advil coursing through my body, other muscles are starting to throb as well. I have a feeling that tomorrow (which is in 7 minutes) when I wake up I will be feeling the effects of my weekend on the river. The rest of the week should reveal even more soreness and pain, so I have that to look forward to.

Next weekend we have a dive scheduled. This is more my element, and why I joined the water rescue team to begin with. Diving is what I do best.

Now don't get me wrong. I enjoyed everything I have learned from the Swift Water Rescue course, and I now have the confidence to be more helpful on the surface in addition to my underwater skills.

The river is an awesome force, and I was going to approach this article with the river being angry, and a thing to be tamed.

In reality, this experience has taught me that the river is a beautiful thing to watch, and peaceful as it flows by just minding its own business. It's only when human beings are dumb enough to think that somehow they can usurp the power the river wields and bend it to their own use, that they quickly realize that we cannot hope to dominate the river.

I came to the river seeking knowledge, I left it humbled and respectful of this powerful force of nature. My only hope is that the river will indulge me when I get called upon to pull someone out of it that has learned this lesson the hard way.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Needs of the Many

I guess it's time to once again sharpen my pixels and make comments on world events. How can I not after what has happened today in England?

Apparently the terrorists are getting desperate. They are starting to realize that they are not affecting our will in their countries, so they are moving outward to try and sway public opinion by blowing up soft targets in other countries.

These terrorists underestimate the strength, and resolve, of free people around the world. The more they attack us, the more we will hunt them down like the rabid animals they are. This will not help their cause, this will hurt it even further.

People who are so religiously bent that they will blow themselves up and slaughter innocent people in the process, just to promote their beliefs, are not operating on all thrusters to begin with.

This is not the actions of brave fighters who are defending themselves. It's the act of cowards who apparently have no life, and way too much time on their hands, trying to think up more ways to kill people.

If they truly wanted to advance their religion they should shut-up, go home, go to their mosque, and show the world how a religion can worship and advance in peace.

The Christian religion has passages in their book that also say things like,

Deuteronomy 13:6-10
6 "If your brother, the son of your mother, your son or your daughter, the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is as your own soul, secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods,' which you have not known, neither you nor your fathers, 7 of the gods of the people which are all around you, near to you or far off from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth, 8 you shall not consent to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him or conceal him; 9 but you shall surely kill him; your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 And you shall stone him with stones until he dies, because he sought to entice you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.


The difference is that the Christian religion has outgrown these archaic passages (at least most of them have thank goodness) and they don't go around slaughtering family members who do not believe in God. Again I say, thank goodness for that!

Terrorists are not doing their religion any favors by giving it such a huge black eye. Instead, they are effectively turning the rest of the world against their religion, which is the exact opposite affect of what they are trying to achieve.

These bombers, who think that self-sacrifice in this manner will gain them favor in their religious place in the afterlife, are nothing more then misguided murderers. They don't appear to possess anything more then a rudimentary knowledge of the larger picture of the human race and our place on this planet.

Religious fanatics, from whatever religion, somehow cease to function in society as a whole, and view the world from a closed perspective that is not healthy. These type of people will never amount to anything except to flail against the wall of normalcy as they try to decipher why it is that nobody truly understands their cause.

This is not the end of terrorism, nor will it ever truly end as long as humans inhabit this Earth. Occasionally the human race spawns those among us who live in a world that most of us don't see. Or we do see it, but recognize the differences between our illusions and fantasies and what is reality.

Committing crimes of all types is not the work of what we would consider normal, civilized, citizens. At least not what the majority of us would classify as normal. Let's face it, we're all a little confused at times. It's when this confusion escalates to the level where it hurts others that we need to draw the line and do something.

Murderer's and other criminals will never go away on this planet, but people that organize for the sole purpose of killing others need to be stopped. We must be resolved to dig in and ferret out these people wherever they congregate, and there will most likely be some collateral damage in the process.

“The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few.” -- Spock